USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (NTDP) played a significant role in helping Connor Murphy, Ryan Hartman and John Hayden reach the NHL.
And not only did they make it there, they’re back together again as teammates with the Chicago Blackhawks. The experience they shared playing for Team USA gives them a special bond that even extends to other veterans like Patrick Kane, who also starred at the NTDP.
“I learned a lot about what it takes for work ethic, being a good pro and how much pride you have to play with every time you’re on the ice,” Murphy said. “You don’t realize until you get there, that’s what’s most important along with your work ethic and how you behave. It will shape what kind of a career you can have.”
Murphy and Hartman had even more international experience together as teammates on the American team that won the country’s third IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal in 2013.
“Any time you win something like that, it definitely brings you closer to some guys,” Hartman said. “Even with guys I haven’t seen in a while, you run into them and it’s like you’ve been talking forever. It’s a cool bond you make with guys when you win a championship.”
Murphy, a Boston native, won gold not only at the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2013, but also with the U.S. National Under-18 Team in 2011. He also played on four U.S. National Teams, winning a bronze medal during the 2015 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
“Some of those tournaments are the first time being able to play on the international stage,” Murphy said. “It’s amazing and it feels like there is so much on the line. There are a lot of hard workouts, skates and development, but it ends up paying off for a lot of guys.”
Hartman, of Hilton Head, South Carolina, said he experienced a great two years with the NTDP, but it’s tough, difficult, hard work and training that’s not for all players.
“It created a baseline for me physically and skillfully on the ice,” Hartman said. “You’re skating and working out every day, going against tough competition. You play pretty elite players from colleges and countries from all over the world, so it was a cool experience.”
Similar to Murphy, Hartman won gold not only at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, but also the 2012 IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship. Hartman’s most memorable experience came when he helped the U.S. to the WJC gold medal in Russia.
“I still have the rings at my house; I see them every once in awhile and it brings back good memories,” Hartman said. “It was a pretty tough tournament and they had a lot of good players. It was during the lockout year, so there were guys that were NHL players who were in the tournament. I remember losing two games in the round robin, but as the tournament went on, we got better and were able to find chemistry.”
Hayden believes his two years with the NTDP were beneficial for elevating his game as he got the chance to compete against college players as a senior in high school. Hayden, a Chicago native, also felt the five-hour move to Ann Arbor, Michigan — home of the NTDP at the time — helped his development on and off the ice.
Additionally, he reconnected with current Blackhawks’ assistant coach Don Granato, who spent four seasons as head coach and helped the NTDP win the 2015 IIHF U-18 Men’s World Championship and 2014 U-17 World Hockey Challenge.
“Obviously, Coach Granato helped me transition,” Hayden said. “He knows my game, so it helps a lot.”
Hayden was a member of the 2013 U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team that finished second at the IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship in Sochi, Russia. He also played on the U.S. Men’s National Under-17 Team that finished second in the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in Windsor, Ontario.
“It’s an honor to represent your country and obviously playing in international events is special,” Hayden said. “I think the camaraderie you build with the guys over two years is what you remember the most. It was special and I still talk to most of my teammates.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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